Trump eyes Cuban American judge from Florida for Supreme Court
Here's President Trump's shortlist of women that will most likely replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Wochit
TALLAHASSEE – Federal appeals court Judge Barbara Lagoa of Florida has emerged as a little-known front-runner for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nomination.
If confirmed as successor to the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lagoa, 52, would bring lengthy judicial experience in state courts, as well as potential political benefits: She is a Cuban American from a battleground state Trump needs to win in November.
Trump praised Lagoa and another front-runner, appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett. He said Saturday that he has "heard at length" about Lagoa: "She's Hispanic and highly respected."
The president nominated her for the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last September, and she was confirmed by an unusually lopsided 80-15 Senate vote in November. Most of Trump's nominees win confirmation narrowly.
Before that, Lagoa served briefly on the Florida Supreme Court. She served for a dozen years on the state's 3rd District Court of Appeals after being appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush. There she took part in more than 11,000 cases and wrote more than 470 opinions.
Lagoa was among 20 people on a list that Trump unveiled this month as possible Supreme Court nominees. She is a protégé of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally. In 2019, DeSantis appointed her to the state's highest court, making her the first Cuban American woman to serve there.
She was in the majority last week when the 11th Circuit ruled 6-4 that hundreds of thousands of Florida felons who have served their time cannot vote this fall or in the future unless they pay fees and fines owed to the state.
The decision along strict ideological lines, with all five judges appointed by Trump in the majority, could have a major impact on the presidential race because of Florida's history of razor-thin margins. In 2000, George W. Bush won the White House with a 537-vote victory margin there.
"Florida’s felon re-enfranchisement scheme is constitutional," Lagoa wrote in a 20-page concurrence. "It falls to the citizens of the state of Florida and their elected state legislators, not to federal judges, to make any additional changes to it."
Perhaps more striking was a one-page concurrence penned by Chief Judge William Pryor, who also wrote the majority opinion. Signed only by himself and Lagoa, it said that "in the end, as our judicial oath acknowledges, we will answer for our work to the Judge who sits outside of human history."
A graduate of Florida International University and Columbia University Law School, Lagoa was raised in Hialeah, Florida, the daughter of parents who fled Fidel Castro's Cuba.
“Justice Lagoa’s proven commitment to upholding the rule of law, unparalleled legal career and vast experience on the appellate bench distinguish her among the most qualified individuals to serve on our state’s highest court,” DeSantis said.
Lagoa, a registered Republican when selected by DeSantis, is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, which stresses that judges should "say what the law is, not what itshould be.”
Before she became a judge, she was an attorney with Miami firms, including the nationally prominent Greenberg Traurig. She also was an assistant federal prosecutor.
Contributing: David Jackson